U.S. EPA announces “environmental objections” to oil sands pipeline

The US Environmental Protection Agency has sent a letter to the State Department raising “environmental objections” to  TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry crude oil from the Alberta oil sands through the American Midwest to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The State Department is considering whether or not to issue a permit for the pipeline, which has the support of the Alberta and Canadian governments.

(The letter is in response to the State Department’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The supplemental was issued after the EPA criticized the first EIS as inadequate. But the EPA says that State again did not provide sufficient analysis in its supplemental EIS.)

In yesterday’s letter, the EPA said that it has “environmental objections” to the Keystone XL project.

(The “environmental objections” rating is explained on page 8 of the letter — out of 4 possible rankings, this is the second-most negative and requires either “corrective measures” or “alternative actions” to be taken.)

The EPA says it has concerns about pipeline safety and spills, impacts on nearby communities, and greenhouse gas emissions, among others.

The full letter is here.

Meanwhile, yesterday the State Dept. said it would hold six additional field hearings on the proposed pipeline — something environmentalists had been asking for.  The move is a disappointment to House Republicans who have been urging the Obama administration to fast-track the project both as a means to “energy security” and as way to create construction jobs in the US. (They even introduced a bill that would require the administration to reach a permit decision by Nov. 1. State has said it will make a decision by the end of 2011.)

The letter comes after the US pipeline safety regulator ordered the existing Keystone pipeline shut down on Friday after a series of leaks. It was allowed to reopen the next day.

Environmentalists were encouraged by the EPA’s letter:

“With this rating, the EPA is standing up for the people who would be hurt by the Keystone XL pipeline, including Midwest farmers and low-income people around Texas refineries,” said Alex Moore, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “All eyes are on Secretary of State Clinton. Will she comply with the law and ensure that these impacts are studied or not?”

Meanwhile, Andrew Leach argues at the Globe and Mail’s website that the pipeline’s potential impact on greenhouse gas emissions is being overstated.


On Twitter at luizachsavage

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